Court upholds limited use of Shawnigan Lake soil dump

A quarry near Shawnigan Lake can continue to receive and store contaminated soil for at least a few more months, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled Friday.

The court upheld an earlier decision that allows limited dumping at the site until a full appeal is heard in August.

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Victoria lawyer John Alexander, who acts for site owners Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. and South Island Aggregates Ltd., welcomed the decision.

“It allows the quarry to be responsibly operated and managed until we get into the Court of Appeal,” he said.

“If you get shut down, it’s pretty tough to do all of the things you should be doing about maintaining and monitoring and sampling and all of that.

“So to that extent, I think my clients are relieved that they can continue to make sure the obligations are looked after.”

The owners and operators of the site have appealed a March 21 decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brian MacKenzie, who concluded that the quarry is being operated as a landfill, which is not a permitted use for the property under local zoning bylaws.

MacKenzie’s decision included a pair of injunctions preventing operators from accepting and storing additional soil at the site.

Court of Appeal Justice Pamela Kirkpatrick ordered a partial stay of the injunctions on April 15, ruling that the owners and operators should be allowed to fulfil existing contracts.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District application to set aside Kirkpatrick’s decision was rejected on Friday.

Sonia Furstenau, an area director with the regional district, said Shawnigan residents are taking the defeat in stride. “The community was very disappointed to hear the news [Friday] morning,” she said. “But they remain steadfast in their determination to protect their watershed.”

The Ministry of Environment issued Cobble Hill Holdings a permit in 2013 to receive and store up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year at its quarry.

The permit was upheld by the Environmental Appeal Board in 2015, but has been subject to court challenges by the regional district and local residents who fear contaminants will eventually leach from the site and pollute their drinking water.

Shawnigan Lake soil landfill

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